90 Day Probation Period: The Pros & Cons

February 13, 2024

90 Day Probation Period: The Pros & Cons

Navigating the first steps of an employment journey often involves a probationary period. A popular duration for this period is 90 days. According to a survey by WorldatWork, 89% of organizations implement a probationary period for new hires. But is 90 days the magic number? Let's dissect the pros and cons of this timeframe.

Defining the 90 Day Probationary Period

Before delving into the advantages and disadvantages, let's clarify what we mean by a "90 Day Probation Period":

  • 90 Day Probation Period: A span of time where new hires are under evaluation to determine their fit within the company. It's a phase where either party – employer or employee – can decide to part ways without many of the strings that typically come attached to full employment.

Pros of a 90 Day Probation Period

Immediate Feedback Loop

  • A set probation period facilitates a structured feedback mechanism. Managers are prompted to assess and provide feedback, ensuring that new employees know where they stand.

Flexibility for Both Parties

  • Both the employee and employer have the opportunity to evaluate the fit without long-term commitments. SHRM notes that 22% of staff turnovers happen within the first 45 days, emphasizing the importance of early evaluation.

Potential Reduction in Turnover Costs

  • By identifying misfits early, companies can save on long-term turnover costs. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, hiring and training a replacement can cost up to one-third of a new hire's annual salary.

Motivation Boost for New Hires

  • The defined probation period can serve as a motivator, prompting new hires to showcase their best work and adapt to company culture swiftly.

Cons of a 90 Day Probation Period

Potential Anxiety for New Hires

  • The pressure of the probation period can induce stress. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, new hires who experience too much pressure early on might become disengaged, reducing long-term retention chances.

Can Lead to Hasty Decisions

  • Ninety days might not always be sufficient for roles that have steeper learning curves, leading to potentially premature terminations.

Administrative Challenges

  • Managing probation timelines, conducting reviews, and processing potential exits can be administrative-heavy, especially for larger companies.

Risk of Short-Term Focus

  • Employees might focus on quick wins rather than long-term contributions, which could be detrimental for roles that require strategic depth.

Striking the Right Balance: Is 90 Days Apt?

Choosing the right probationary duration depends on several factors:

  • Role Complexity: Positions that require more extensive training or have more complex responsibilities might necessitate longer probation periods.

  • Company Culture: Organizations with a nurturing, patient culture might lean towards extending the probationary duration, providing new hires ample time to adjust.

  • Industry Standards: Some industries might have standardized probation durations that companies prefer to adhere to.

It's All About Alignment

The 90 day probationary period, while popular, isn't a one-size-fits-all approach. Employers need to gauge its applicability based on role requirements, company values, and industry trends. Most importantly, it's vital to ensure that this period serves as a supportive phase, setting up new hires for success rather than undue pressure.

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